When Kilmeena lost out to Kilmaine by a single point in the county Junior final of 2020, it would have taken some imagination to predict what was going to come next for the club. They’d given everything in that Covid year Junior decider but it just wasn’t enough. After that loss they had no option but to regroup and come again.
And, boy, have they come. Junior champions the following year, then All-Ireland Junior champions early in 2022. Intermediate finalists last year and now Intermediate champions, having this afternoon got the better of Ballinrobe by 1-11 to 1-9 in what was a cracking Sweeney Cup decider.
The quality of football in this year’s club Championships hasn’t been hectic at times but there surely were no complaints from patrons today. This was a contest that swung one way, then the other, with both sides really going for it. In the end, Kilmeena had that bit more and were deserving two-points winners at the finish.
Ballinrobe got the best possible start today when Kevin Quinn crashed a thunderous shot to the net. The score fairly rocked Kilmeena and it took them the bulk of the opening half to shake off what was a very indifferent start for them.
It could have been worse for them midway through the first half. Kevin Ryder was late and high when he clothes-lined Ryan Corcoran and he was extremely fortunate only to have a yellow card waved at him.
When, on 22 minutes, Darren McDonnell knocked over his third point of the half – his first from play – Ballinrobe looked well in charge of this contest. But Kilmeena suddenly stirred themselves and five points without reply turned the game on its head. Darragh Keaveney got two of these from play, John McGlynn pointed two frees and Caolach Halligan got the opening one of this salvo, also from play.
Ballinrobe would surely have found it hard to comprehend how they were behind at halfway. They started the second half in a positive manner, however, with points from Liam Burke and Darren Quinn nudging them back in front.
Then came a Kilmeena surge. A floater in from Darragh Keaveney was caught by Caolach Halligan who turned and stabbed it low to the net. Darragh Keaveney rammed over a ’45 soon after to extend their lead to three.
Now it was time for Ballinrobe to come again. They picked off four points in a row, all from play, from James Murphy, sub Cian O’Connell and two from Evan O’Brien, to claw themselves back a point in front as the closing stretch approached.
It was in those final moments that Kilmeena’s county man Jack Carney really came to the fore. Soon after Luke Jennings had pulled off a super save, Jack Carney burst through and the ‘keeper did excellently to deflect his piledriver over the bar. Jack’s next effort was from further out and this one sailed over.
Into injury time and although Ballinrobe had chances to pull level again, they snatched at these efforts, shooting two wides. Then, right at the death, Kilmeena’s sub Liam Moore landed an absolutely glorious point from distance. It was the grace note and an appropriate way to sign off on a cracking win for Kilmeena, one that sees them win the county Intermediate title for the first time ever.
What a journey this has been for the West Mayo club. Now they’re up to Senior and, before that, there’s the opportunity for further silverware at Intermediate level in the province and, perhaps, at the All-Ireland stage too. Their loyal band of followers could well have further days to enjoy in the future.
Congrats to them and commiserations to a brave Ballinrobe side who contributed so much to today’s title decider and who made Kilmeena battle all the way.
Our Mayo Football Podcast Final Whistle show from MacHale Park is up now on Patreon. On it we hear from Kilmeena manager John Reilly and goalscorer Caolach Halligan, as well as Stephen Staunton and Jack Carney on a famous day for the club. There’s also post-match reaction from Ballinrobe manager Peter Ford and match analysis from Billy Fitzpatrick.